Getting patients on board with EHRs, information-sharing

October 12, 2011

Much of the focus on electronic health record adoption has been on providers and the challenges they have faced in achieving meaningful use. Now, the government?s attention is turning to patients, many of whom have expressed concerns about the privacy and security of their health information. How are health information technology officials going to determine what patients really want in terms of electronic sharing of information?

Much of the focus on electronic health record (EHR) adoption has been on providers and the challenges they have faced in achieving meaningful use. Now, the government’s attention is turning to previously overlooked participants in the EHR transition process: patients.

The chief privacy officer of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently announced that APP Design, Inc., of Itasca, Illinois, has been awarded a $1.24 million contract to “find an efficient, effective, and innovate way to help patients better understand their choices” regarding sharing of their health data.

Chief among the project’s goals are developing new ways to educate and inform individuals of their options to share information, ensuring that patients understand and choose who sees their electronic health information, and exploring ways to move from paper consent to electronic recording of informed choice, according to the ONC.

A recent Xerox Corp. survey found that only 18% of patients had been approached by their healthcare providers to discuss converting their medical records, up 2% from 2010. For that survey, 79% of patients reported that they worry hackers will steal their personal information, and more than 60% said they fear their records will be lost, damaged, or misused.

In response to such concerns, the new ONC project says that “[It is] the person who has the treating relationship with the patient who is responsible for educating patients regarding how information will be shared and with whom.” APP Design’s e-consent trial also will address improvements in the business processes involved in obtaining consent in a clinical setting.

The e-consent trial will occur at four provider sites in western New York that use the HEALTHeLINK health information exchange system. APP Design will develop a user interface to educate patients about information exchange and their choices, ask follow-up questions to ensure understanding, and record the patients’ selections.

The ONC noted that a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs survey found that more than 90% of patients preferred the use of an electronic consent process to paper-based methods-at least for consent for procedures or treatment. Part of the task for APP Design will be finding out how patients want to provide consent for exchange of their health information and how best to ensure that their preferences transmit across systems and time.

The e-consent trial starts this month and is expected to take 84 weeks to complete.

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